Improvisational comedy is fast becoming the norm. Whether it’s This is the End, Bad Neighbours or Anchorman 2, the construction is the same: narrative skeleton to keep the audience interested interspersed with some carefully-honed gags and a lot of loose improvisation, edited into something tighter. I’m not complaining, mind; I love the shooting-shit-with-your-mates vibe of good improv. But these films all strip something natural out of improvisation, reducing it to something …neat.
That’s not the case with Joe Swanberg’s Happy Christmas, a comedy-slash-drama built on a foundation of improv. Like Swanberg’s last film, Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas splits the difference between relaxed jesting – mostly from Jude Swanberg, Joe’s two year-old son (possibly the best actor in an impressive cast) – and serious contemplation of the issues of white folks in their early thirties. Said issues revolve around parenthood – Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) struggles with her artistic aspirations and motherhood – and simply attaining adulthood in the first place, with Kelly’s sister-in-law Jenny (Anna Kendrick) struggling to move past arrested adolescence.
It’s never quite as insightful or moving as Drinking Buddies, but it’s a brisk, pleasant way to spend an hour-and-a-half, largely thanks to the way Swanberg uses improvisation for verisimilitude rather than pun-one-upmanship.
4 thoughts on “Sydney Film Festival: Happy Christmas (2014)”
Drinking Buddies is one of my most favourite films of recent years, really looking forward to this! Excellent post :). Happy to hear it’s relatively fulfilling and enjoyable.
Yeah, I liked Drinking Buddies a great deal too (even if I never got around to reviewing it!). This isn’t quite on the same level but it’s not far off at all. Cheers
I’m glad to hear you liked it, although being as big a fan of Drinking Buddies as I am, I’m a little sad this isn’t quite up to that film’s standard. Still looking forward to it, though.
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